Senators meet, back N65 petrol pump price

THE PUNCH Newspaper

Anytime from now, the Senate may ask President Goodluck Jonathan to postpone the implementation of the removal of the subsidy on petrol till April, THE PUNCH has learnt. If Jonathan accedes to the request, the pump price of petrol will automatically revert to N65 per litre.

Our correspondent learnt on Tuesday that the Senate, at a closed-door meeting resolved to tell President Jonathan to reverse the removal of subsidy on petrol.

Sources at the meeting told our correspondent that the senators expressed worries about the way the strike and protests had grounded social and economic activities on the first two days.

The senators consequently agreed to tell the President to suspend the policy until the government has implemented all the palliatives it has promised.

At an emergency plenary on Sunday, the House of Representatives had asked Jonathan to suspend the subsidy removal, saying that Nigerians were not willing to accept the removal for now. The Presidency had, however, responded that the resolution was a mere opinion that was not binding.

‘Subsidy in 2011 budget’

A senator who attended the Senate’s emergency meeting told one of our correspondents that the upper chamber would send a delegation to meet with the President on its decision before the close of Tuesday.

The Senator who pleaded anonymity said, “The Senate agreed that the President should suspend the removal of subsidy until all the palliatives have been put in place. Besides, the 2011 budget, which provided for the payment of subsidy, is still in force and it will expire on the 31st of March 2012.

“So legally, the President needs to abide by the provisions of the law. We are expecting that by the end of March, all the palliatives would have been in place and the issues would have been discussed and agreed upon before the implementation of the policy.”

Backed by civil society groups, the Labour-organised mass action, which commenced on Monday, has paralysed socio-economic activities in major cities and communities in the country.

In some places, the mass action turned violent with security agents shooting protesters. On Monday, a Divisional Police Officer shot and killed a young man, Abiodun Ademola, in the Ogba area of Lagos while three people were also killed in Kano and several others injured in another clash between the police and protesters.

The senators were also said to have mandated the Senate President, David Mark, and other principal officers to work out a clear plan of action on how to bring down the tension created by the subsidy removal on January 1. They are to report back to plenary within 24 hours.

Senators were reportedly in agreement that the announcement of the subsidy withdrawal did not take into account the prevailing security situation in the country.

Government using thugs - Labour

As the nationwide strike entered its second day on Tuesday, protesters trooped out in several cities to express their anger at the subsidy removal and consequent jump in costs of transport and goods.

(See full reports on pages 10, 11, 12, 13 and 18).

A statement by the Nigeria Labour Congress Acting General Secretary, Owei Lakemfa, and the Trade Union Congresss Secretary General, John Kolawole, in Abuja, congratulated Nigerians for successfully carrying out the protests for the second day.

The unions accused the government of hiring thugs to attack protesters in Abuja, adding that some of the thugs were former militants and students from the Nasarawa Polytechnic who operated as the “PDP Transformation Movement.”

The unions described the alleged importation of thugs as “a Mubarak-style response to the people’s protests,” and threatened to march on the Federal Capital City.

The statement reads in part, “The Labour Movement alerts the country and the world at large that the government of President Goodluck Jonathan has imported armed thugs into Abuja to attack the anti-fuel price hike protesters.

“In a Mubarak-style response to the peoples’ protests, the Jonathan administration brought into Abuja thugs armed with various weapons, including guns. Those of them who made an appearance on Abuja streets yesterday (Tuesday) afternoon were former militants and students from Nasarawa Polytechnic who operated under the banner of “PDP Transformation Movement.”

“Clearly, the Presidency had intended to use the police and Army to carry out planned attacks on peaceful protesters but due to the outcry over previous murders, it has opted to use armed thugs.

“Labour warns the Presidency that it will be held responsible for whatever atrocities these thugs commit. If the thugs attack the anti -fuel price hike protesters, the Labour Movement will be compelled to ask all citizens to march on Abuja and take the city.”

IG vows to stop miscreants

Meanwhile, the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Hafiz Ringim, on Tuesday, said the anti-subsidy removal protests were being hijacked by those he described as miscreants.

Ringim spoke with State House correspondents after an extra ordinary security council meeting held at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

Presided over by Jonathan, the meeting was attended by Vice President Namadi Sambo; all the security chiefs, Minister of Defence, Dr. Bello Mohammed; and the National Security Adviser, Gen. Owoye Azazi (retd.).

Ringim said the meeting had centred on the progress so far made by law enforcement agencies with regard to the protests.

He said security chiefs were satisfied that the leadership of the NLC had been conducting itself in the best peaceful manner.

“However, it is also believed that there are miscreants that are trying to hijack this process and make it violent and we are not going to allow it as law enforcement officers,” he said.

The police boss showed journalists photographs of over 30 vehicles that were allegedly burnt in the Kano State Government House, saying there was no way the NLC could have been responsible for the acts.

He said, “This was certainly not the work of NLC; this was the work of miscreants who wanted to burn, maim and loot. Police have a responsibility to maintain law and order and that was what we did.

“As far as I know, and as far as the records are concerned, three people have so far lost their lives during this protest. However, if you have any other dead bodies, please bring them forward.”

Ringim said he had ordered an investigation into the case of Ademola who was killed by a DPO in Ogba, Lagos, on Monday.

He promised that the report of the investigation would be made public and that the culprit would be charged to court.

On the threat by the violent Islamic sect, Boko Haram, that Southerners should leave the North, Ringim said, “Unfortunately, some people are feeling apprehensive and there is nothing you can do about it. They have the right to move.”

The police boss expressed confidence that the protest would not lead to the loss of more lives.

“So far, if you watch between yesterday (Monday) and today Tuesday), things have started going down and I am pleased that labour is seeing reason actually and conducting itself in the lawful manner that it is supposed to,” he added.


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